WASHINGTON, DC – The Feminist Majority commends both chambers of the U.S. Congress for unanimously approving legislation late last night that triples U.S. funding for Afghanistan. This bill, first introduced with unanimous bipartisan support in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in August, provides $2.3 billion over the next four years in humanitarian and reconstruction aid for Afghanistan and $1 billion over the next two years for expansion of international peacekeeping forces. If signed by President Bush, this legislation will authorize humanitarian and reconstruction aid that is double the amount first proposed by the House, and, for the first time, authorize funds for U.S. support of international peace troop expansion.
What’s more, this bill makes Afghan women a funding priority. Both the House and the Senate kept intact an amendment introduced in August by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) that provides $15 million each year over four years for the Afghan Ministry of Women's Affairs and $5 million for the newly-created independent Human Rights Commission.
“At last, we have tripled our funds for Afghanistan. This is a tremendous victory,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “Recognizing that Afghan women are in dire need, Sens. Boxer and (Joseph) Biden (D-DE) pushed for this amendment to help Afghan women emerge from the violence that has remained in their lives since the Taliban was ousted from power one year ago.”
“Failure in Afghanistan, and for Afghan women and girls, is not an option,” Boxer said upon introducing the amendment in August.
In the year since the Taliban was driven from Afghanistan, women and girls have reported repeated incidents of violence across the country. In the last two months, a dozen girls’ schools have been burned, bombed or closed. Just before and after many of these attacks, fundamentalist leaflets were passed out that warned girls against going to school. In addition, continued threats against women who speak out for women’s rights, who go to work, or who take off the burqa have been reported.
Currently, there are approximately 5,000 International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops that patrol within the capital city of Kabul. With the continued incidents of violence, ISAF must be increased in numbers and in scope if President Hamid Karzai’s government is to maintain control over the country. Without U.S. support, expansion of these international peacekeeping forces is not possible.
“This continued violence clearly shows the relationship between security and women’s rights. Without the expansion of ISAF, the country will return to the control of the warlords and fundamentalists who destroyed it and again will become a base for terrorism,” Smeal noted.
The Feminist Majority spearheaded the drive for ISAF expansion, additional humanitarian aid funds and funding earmarks for the Women’s Ministry and Human Rights Commission. The Feminist Majority and other women’s organizations have been asking the Bush administration to expand peacekeeping troops beyond Kabul and increase reconstruction funding for the past year.
The Feminist Majority was the first U.S. group to launch a campaign against gender apartheid in Afghanistan. For six years, the Feminist Majority led an education campaign to bring the atrocities of the Taliban to the world’s attention and to demand equality for Afghan women. For more information on the Feminist Majority’s Campaign to Help Afghan Women and Girls visit www.feminist.org.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .